It started not too long after Christine Jorgenson
. As the numbers of transsexuals
grew, and they became involved with more and more groups in society, eventually there would be confrontation with women's groups.
The biggest moment when this became a serious issue was upon the publication of The Transsexual Empire by Janice Raymond. Originally her Doctoral Thesis, this book took a critical perspective of transsexuality. She argued that it was a condition more or less created by doctors and therapists. But she didn't stop there. She actually claimed that transsexuals were the advance agents of the Patriarchy, who were symbolically raping the bodies of women by attempting to surgically acquire one for themselves. That it was an attempt by the men in society to capture the power of feminist women, and take it for themselves.
Raymond did not only discuss the male to female transsexual. She covered female to male also, mainly claiming they were merely lesbians in denial, unable to properly accept their sexual orientation. This was partially done, it would seem, to release biological females from the evil that she treated transsexuality.
She expressed that the only proper way to deal with people who were unable to handle the gender role of the body they were born into was to fight for the freedom to express themselves in ways break the gender stereotypes, that the "transgendered" should try and be treated as a third gender.
Raymond called for the exclusion of all transsexual women from feminism. She also wanted those women who accepted the transsexual women to be excluded also, considering them to be commiting "treason" to women and the women's movement.
While the amount of influence the book had is unknown, the attitudes expressed have pervaded much of the radical feminism movement, at least in the United States, for a long time. Transsexual women are regularly excluded from feminist groups, treated as men (which is exactly what they DON'T want), and often harassed in the process.
One well known example of this attitude has occured at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. They have a policy of "womyn-born-womyn only", which started after a confrontation there one year where a rather butch lesbian, upon finding out another festival goer was transsexual, became quite angry and turned it into a large issue. Soon after, the policy was started. It even reached the point of a brief experiment with "panty checks", though that has since calmed down to a "don't ask don't tell" policy, reminiscent of the US Military.
What makes the whole attitude seem contradictory is that these women are fighting for additional women's rights, claiming that the way things have been can change, that the traditional roles for women should give way to better roles. They want to eliminate this old-style belief as to what women should do and shouldn't do. But then they turn around treat transsexuals in the same manner, treating them as if they cannot change the way things were, that they're stuck with it. That apparently biology can determine your gender, but somehow absolving it from determining what you can do as part of that gender.
Part of me wonders why they don't accept the transsexual with open arms. Instead of thinking of them as agents of the enemy, perhaps consider them as spies who have learned about the patriarchy from the inside. A transsexual woman would know even better the difference in how men and women are treated, would be even more aware of opportunities lost, of increased difficulties in the ones they still have, from being able to experience both sides.
Claiming that biology is the sole determinant of something that complex seems to be undermining their cause at the most fundamental point.